Last month our standard poodle, Bix, had an issue with his eye that required ointment be applied three times daily. My schedule is variable so my husband and I shared responsibility for giving him the medicine. So I knew there had to be a way to keep track of whether it had been given.
Ointment is tricky because there’s no way to tell by looking at the container whether it’s been used. So I created a quick checklist to post in the bathroom. It was so easy and useful I thought I’d share it here.
Here’s a photo of it:
And here’s how I created it—it took maybe five minutes.
The idea was that when Bix got his medicine, we’d check it off. It had the double advantage of helping us keep track of whether he’d received his medicine while also reminding us to give him his medicine.
As you an tell from the picture, even with this tool it was hard for us to keep up with applying the medicine three times a day. But I’m sure we did it more than we would have in the absence of the checklist. The good news was that he had a re-check and the vet reduced the frequency to an easier-to-implement once a day.
If we hadn’t had those metal hooks. this wouldn’t have been so easy-peasy. But I could have used Command hooks for the checklist and a pen.
There are higher tech ways to create checklists, but this was quick and (pretty) effective for us. Maybe it’ll help you too.
Effective task management is a moving target for me. I’ve come to accept that I need to switch things up in order to keep myself engaged and get stuff done. So I vary my systems according to my need and mood. This post, originally published May 22, 2013, describes a sort of emergency intervention I use when I just can’t get myself to get anything done.
For the last two days, I have had such a difficult staying focused and productive at my desk! My day yesterday was completely unstructured, which is sometimes a recipe for disaster for me. Without an appointment looming, it can be really hard for me to get started.
Today, I’m just trying to get a few hours of work in after my client appointment.
It’s not that I don’t know what to do: I have a four-item list I created this morning. (I usually create that the night before; that’s how unproductive I was yesterday.) A couple of those items will be very easy to accomplish. So why aren’t I starting?
I think I feel, for whatever reason, just really unfocused. Usually my to-do list is enough to focus me. Today, it’s going to take more. I’m pulling out the big guns: a timer + a reward.
One of the easy items on my task list is doing 15 minutes of Quickbooks entry. That’s right, just 15 minutes and I can check that off my list and feel accomplished. I often feel such resistance to even opening the Quickbooks program, though. It’s inexplicable. I actually rather enjoy accounting and my cash flow is positive, so it should feel good. But sometimes getting started on it is like pulling teeth. Thus the low threshold for success (15 minutes).
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to spend 15 minutes on Quickbooks. And when I finish that, I’m going to give myself a reward: 15 minutes watching the mini-series The Pillars of the Earth which I have on DVD from the library. (I just finished reading the book again, so I’m going to enjoy it, I’m sure.)
I’ll layer 15 minutes of TV watching in after I finish each of the four items on my list.
Another good idea: I’m going to keep away from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. They’ve been such a distraction these last couple of days.
There. I have a plan. I’m starting to feel productive!
If you hit a productivity rough patch, you might try the one-two punch of a timed burst of activity coupled with a reward. It can be pretty powerful!
ETA: It worked! I got all the things on my list done, as well as some other stuff. That timer really got me going.
I’m a morning person. I know that I’m most productive in the morning. Especially first thing in the morning. My brain is turned on and I can be pretty focused when everyone else in the house is asleep. (And by everyone else, I mean my husband and dog.)
I’ve learned that if I want to get something done I should do it during this precious early-morning time. For me, this is especially true of blogging. It’s easier for me to blog first thing in the morning than later in the day. I have trouble sitting down and focusing on blogging in the afternoon or evening. So I know that if I want to blog consistently, I am best off doing it in the morning.
Recently, I’ve turned that early-morning focus to doing genealogy research. (I blogged about this very thing on Organize Your Family History recently.) I had not been taking the time to do genealogy research, which was really disappointing me. Now that I’m doing it first thing, I’m really enjoying it and making progress. Of course that makes blogging the second thing I do in the morning, but that’s working out too.
I started to think about the things I can do to make it easier for me to do important things first thing, even on days where I have early client appointments. I’d prefer not to have to get up earlier, so I try to do routine things the night before instead of taking precious morning-brain time in the morning. These things include:
Just doing these easy things the afternoon or evening before can allow me to harness the power of my early-morning brain. If you’re a morning person and you have something you’re having trouble getting done, you might give it a try.
If you’re an evening person—which is okay too, of course—you might try switching this up for your schedule. If you know your peak time, work around that. If you’re on your game at 9 pm try to make sure the mindless before-bed stuff is done so that you can really get into your flow at 9 and nothing gets in your way.
Is there something you’ve been wanting to accomplish regularly that keeps going undone? Try doing it before everything else.
The winner is Jessica Stallsmith!
I was tickled she won, because her comment/entry made me smile. She wrote:
I have an incredibly unhealthy obsession with arts, crafts, and office supplies. I finally confess. And the fact that these folders are everything in one, makes my heart sing. Speaking of heart, these also have the added benefit of reducing stress! Perfect! Since I was just diagnosed with high blood pressure! See what I did there? So clearly, if I win you could be saving a life! Or… Just make a little person like me extremely happy for 32 minutes.
Enjoy those 32 minutes of coloring, Jessica! Actually, with 12 folders I think you’ll get a lot more than 32 minutes of enjoyment out of them.
Continuing with the theme I started last week about adult coloring, I wanted to highlight an amazing coloring book I think you should know about. (And don’t forget I’m doing a giveaway this week for a set of Smead Coloring Folders!)
One of the positive things that came out of the protests and subsequent vandalism that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, as well as in my own Tower Grove neighborhood, was the art painted on plywood boards that covered broken storefronts. The community came together to paint messages of peace, unity and love. It was truly inspiring.
My friend and client, Carol Swartout Klein, a native of Ferguson, was inspired by that art and created an award-wining children’s story book, Painting for Peace in Ferguson that came out in 2015.
This year, she partnered with artist Robert O’Neil to create a coloring book based on the painting for peace art, Painting for Peace – A Coloring Book for All Ages. I saw her recently and she gave me a copy.
The coloring book, like all good coloring books, is appealing from an aesthetic standpoint. I found it hard to choose the first page to color because there were so many great options. But it’s also really moving. Color photos of the actual paintings that inspired the coloring pages are printed on the inside front and back cover, and the coloring book includes profiles of some of the original artists with an explanation of the art. Coloring pages are on the right side and complimentary inspirational quotations are on the left. It’s printed on high-quality paper and is appropriate for both adults and kids.
Here’s the cover of the book:
Here’s the first picture I colored from the book. I used primarily Koh-I-Noor Tri-Tone colored pencils.
This coloring book, and the children’s book before it, convey important messages of peace, love and hope. I encourage you to purchase either or both books. Your purchase not only spreads a message, it benefits youth, art education and economic recovery programs in the affected areas.
When I attended the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers this year, the item in the trade show that got me most excited was the SuperTab Coloring Folders being sold by Smead. That’s right, coloring folders. File folders that you color on.
Last year, I got caught up in the coloring-books-for-grown-ups craze. I bought many pencils and markers and coloring books. (Perhaps too many.) And I color frequently, for relaxation. I’ve enjoyed coloring and I’ve enjoyed organizing my coloring supplies. So these folders really caught my eye. I was delighted when Smead offered to send me a set to try out and a set to give away on the blog.
The folders come in packs of 6, 12 and 24, all available on Amazon. Smead sent me two 12 packs. Each has four designs to color; two of the designs have sayings printed on them as well (‘Give Life Meaning’ and ‘You are Your Only Limit’). I’ve enjoyed coloring them with markers. Here are a couple of examples. I colored the blue-hued folder with Faber Castell Pitt Artist Brushes and the flowered one with fine-point Sharpies. I will probably also try using colored pencils on these folders.
While I enjoy coloring, I really don’t have anything to do with the finished product. Unlike knitting, where I’m creating something to use, my coloring pages sit in a box when finished (if I really like them) or just get recycled. With the Smead Coloring Folders, I can actually use and enjoy the item I’ve colored. It’s amazing to me how gratifying that is!
Wanna try these yourself? You can win a 12 pack of Smead Coloring Folders by entering my giveaway! To enter, post a comment below about why you wan to win. After you’ve entered with a comment, you may get additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway (be sure and use @janinea in the tweet, so that I see it) and/or writing on the wall or commenting at the Peace of Mind Organizing Facebook page. The contest ends at 11 pm, central time, on Wednesday, July 6. I’ll announce the winner on Thursday, July 7.
The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Jessica Stallsmith, who won a set of coloring folders!
__(Photos taken using the tabletop photo light studio SHOTBOX.
When I get busy my natural messiness kicks in. Our kitchen is being renovated so disorder reigns in our house and has for the last six weeks. But even in small spaces that have nothing to do with the kitchen, like my desk, everything felt out of control this morning. I’m feeling pulled in a bunch of directions and just wasn’t taking the time to put away the stuff I could. And the clutter started getting tome.
So this morning I set my timer for five minutes and I cleared off my desktop. I recycled papers I didn’t need. Took coffee mugs away to the (temporary) kitchen and put things in their homes.
After five minutes my desk wasn’t perfect (see the photo above). But I wish I’d taken a before picture, because the improvement with just a little effort was vast. I felt so much better when I was finished. And I was able to ge productive quickly—I’m always amazed how a cluttered desktop hampers my productivity. (It’s clear I need to spend some time decluttering my computer desktop…please don’t judge!)
Sometimes when you’re really busy and things are messy you think you just don’t have the time to tidy up. But I think that’s when you should take a little time—even if it’s just five minutes—to create a little order and give yourself some peace of mind.
Decluttering, tidying and cleaning are not an all-or-nothing propositions. You don’t have to wait until you have enough time to do everything. You can do just a little and enjoy some big dividends.